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Ring-fencing... again

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    Posted: 03 Dec 2018 at 22:47
Two articles from The Times...

The Premiership clubs have recommenced negotiations to bring an end to promotion and relegation, with a new possibility of expanding the Gallagher Premiership to a 13-club league.

The Times has learnt that some clubs would be keen to pull up the trap door immediately and therefore ensure that no one would be relegated at the end of this season.

The first nine rounds of this season’s Premiership competition have established a situation where seven clubs are at risk of relegation, arguably nine. It is this fear that has focussed minds.

The subject of ringfencing has been an occasional discussion point among the clubs and came close to being waved through earlier this year. The major sticking point, then, was the fact there are 13 professional clubs with shares in Premier Rugby Limited — the 12 in the Premiership, plus London Irish, who are leading the Championship — and how, therefore, to cut the number to ringfence a league of 12.

One of the new proposals is simply to expand the Premiership into a 13-club competition.
This would require an extra four Premiership weekends each season. These weekends would be made available by the cancelling of the new Premiership Cup competition.

While some clubs are keen to scrap relegation as soon as possible, it remains unlikely that it could be achieved swiftly enough to prevent any club being relegated this season.

A Premiership spokesman today confirmed that ringfencing was again being discussed. “It’s been on the agenda for 20 years,” he said, “and will always be debated.”

Follow-up feature by Owen Slot

So here we are, nine rounds into this season’s Gallagher Premiership, and we have the tightest, most extraordinary relegation contest since the leagues began. Suck it up and enjoy it for all it is worth, because it may just be that fans of the English Premiership will never ever get anything like it again.

With the most sublime irony, the clubs are in the process of giving the watching public a competition that is more compellingly desperate and broadly nerve-wracking than anything they have ever seen before, and yet they are simultaneously attempting to legislate so that nothing like this can ever happen again.
Newcastle Falcons are bottom. The next six clubs are only four points or fewer ahead. Any one of these could be relegated at the end of the season and there are big names in there: Bath, Bristol Bears, Leicester Tigers, Worcester Warriors, Northampton Saints and Sale Sharks. Ahead of them, but only by five points, are Wasps and Harlequins; it is unlikely but not completely unfeasible that one of those could go too.

Year after year, the Premiership’s relegation battle has been an irrelevance, a non-event; not so much as a battle than a case of the bottom club conceding defeat — and sometimes by Christmas time.
So this time, now that more than half of the league are in danger of relegation, what do they do? They try to scrap relegation altogether.

It is not entirely clear how cynical rugby fans need to be here, however, it is not exactly a coincidence that the latest push to ringfence the Premiership has come at the very time when the majority of its members have a very immediate interest in ensuring that it happens.

Traditionally when the subject arises of scrapping promotion and relegation — and it is pretty much a tradition, an annual event with no conclusion — there are two or three clubs who are terrified of relegation and the rest take a wider, more corporate view, asking questions such as: would ringfencing improve the product? Would it help us grow? Would it prevent us from another embarrassing eyesore like London Welsh?

The major reason that the clubs might reach a conclusion this time is the number of the terrified is not two or three teams but seven or eight.

Earlier this season, the sole reason that ringfencing was not whistled through was the 13th team. There are 13 shareholders and yet PRL wants to be 12. All sorts of enterprising methods were concocted to get shot of the 13th team — probably London Irish – and yet the other 12 took their finger off the trigger. They had not the heart to kill off one of their own.

Now, though, the landscape is dramatically changing and they do not feel so keenly the need to do so. The deal with CVC Capital Partners is likely to be confirmed next Tuesday. CVC is set to buy a shareholding of 30 per cent of Premier Rugby Limited (PRL) for around £240 million so, for all those clubs that were making losses and scraping for every share of every deal they could get, there is suddenly a lot more to share around.

Two questions: will it happen? And: should it happen?

Will it? Yes, at some point it now seems inevitable. Some clubs want it right now, in order to stop anyone being relegated in May, though this just seems plain hopeful. Any such change has to be given RFU approval and it seems unlikely that the governing body will change the rules mid-season. A more likely outcome is that this season will be the last for relegation and then, next season, the club that is top of the Championship will go up and pull up the trap door behind them.

Imagine next season in the Championship, then. Imagine that, say, Bath have been relegated. The games between them and Premiership wannabes, Ealing Trailfinders, will be epic.

Should it happen? Only if the trap door is opened in another four or five years’ time.

The fact is that the 13 teams are pretty much ringfenced already; the only difference is that the 13th team has to spend a season cutting costs and haemorrhaging cash in the Championship. No one else gets close. London Irish — who are presently the 13th team — have lost only one game this season which was to Jersey Reds who make annual losses of £300,000, who had to sell their ground two years ago to survive and were last week given a £150,000 grant by the island government to help them see out the season. That is not a business fit for the Premiership.

Nor is Ealing’s — at least not now. They do not have a ground fit for the Premiership and the average home crowd is less than 1,000.

The gap between Premiership clubs, now, and those in the Championship has grown so vast that the notion that another team could “do an Exeter” is more fanciful, now, than simply romantic. Exeter Chiefs had to make a huge leap to survive; the chasm is infinitely wider.

If you put up the ringfence for, say, four years and then reopen it then you do not kill ambition, instead you also allow Jersey to re-finance and Ealing to build a stadium and a crowd. Likewise Cornish Pirates.
Far better to encourage these clubs to build, so they have a possibility of being able to survive in the top flight and contribute to it, rather than the current model which is to encourage them to spend beyond their means to buy players they cannot afford.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gerg_861 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Dec 2018 at 22:53
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Camquin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Dec 2018 at 00:09
The principle of promotion and relegation is in the RFU rules.   
All the RFU has to say to the Premiership is No and the Premiership has no argument.
The clubs are almost bankrupt and reliant on exorbitant central funding - they cannot afford to break away.

The fact that the clubs are willing to sell their birthright for a mess of pottage (Genesis 25:29-34) shows how weak their position is. They need immediate funding to survive - even if they cannot afford to give up future revenue.

I am sure that if the RFU wanted to play hardball it could use reg 4.2 
"No individual, body corporate or partnership, trust or any other entity (‘Entity’) may directly or indirectly own or control more than one Club except with the prior written consent of the RFU.
...
For the purpose of this Regulation 4.2 indirect ownership or control shall be widely construed."

to declare the parachute payment illegal and hence all premiership clubs  in breach of regulations..

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gerg_861 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Dec 2018 at 06:56
In all seriousness, the RFU was royally screwed in the last PRL deal. If the RFU wants to wriggle out of it, then this kind of issue would be perfect leverage to get an agreement that all sides can live with. As always, I think that there are dozens of permutations that would be better than the currwnt yearly bleating about ringfencing. Boring and pathetic.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mark W-J Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Dec 2018 at 08:42
Originally posted by Camquin Camquin wrote:

All the RFU has to say to the Premiership is No and the Premiership has no argument.  The clubs are almost bankrupt and reliant on exorbitant central funding - they cannot afford to break away.

The RFU are too scared of McCafferty to ever stand up to him.  The clubs own the players, and without the players there is no national team.  The clubs don't need to break away, they just need to hold the RFU to ransom again.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Count Ford Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Dec 2018 at 11:43
I constantly wonder why they make a point of Championship teams being unable to make a profit when barely any team in the Premiership can either. I doubt even Exeter will over the next few years given the increase in wages needed to give them a squad capable of challenging for domestic and European trophies.

We all know sport is now business first but some of these clubs need to take an introspective look at their greedy attitude. Most of them could easily follow the path of Orrell if a big backer pulled out.

Exeter's call for Ring-Fencing is particularly galling. They have been mine, and many others favourite 2nd team due to what they have done over the years and now they want to stop anyone else having the chance to do that
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Richard Lowther Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Dec 2018 at 12:42
Originally posted by Mark W-J Mark W-J wrote:

Originally posted by Camquin Camquin wrote:

All the RFU has to say to the Premiership is No and the Premiership has no argument.  The clubs are almost bankrupt and reliant on exorbitant central funding - they cannot afford to break away.

The RFU are too scared of McCafferty to ever stand up to him.  The clubs own the players, and without the players there is no national team.  The clubs don't need to break away, they just need to hold the RFU to ransom again.

The clubs need England players in their sides - its what they sell their sponsorship around, its what attracts the supporter - especially the casual supporter.  Despite all they say, they need England as much as England needs the players.

The players need England - its what drives their wages at club level. Their agents sell themselves on the back of their International appearances, 'brand' recognition and publicity. 

If players were deprived of representing England by their clubs, they would have to be recompensed by the clubs - and the clubs on their own can't do this - they need the money from the RFU.  Players if they were not recompensed adequately by their clubs or deprived of international would look to  go elsewhere - there are another 2000 clubs the RFU could deal with - and I think they forget this during their (lack of negotations) with the 12 Premiership clubs!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote The Blues Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Dec 2018 at 13:47
Originally posted by Richard Lowther Richard Lowther wrote:

Originally posted by Mark W-J Mark W-J wrote:

Originally posted by Camquin Camquin wrote:

All the RFU has to say to the Premiership is No and the Premiership has no argument.  The clubs are almost bankrupt and reliant on exorbitant central funding - they cannot afford to break away.

The RFU are too scared of McCafferty to ever stand up to him.  The clubs own the players, and without the players there is no national team.  The clubs don't need to break away, they just need to hold the RFU to ransom again.

The clubs need England players in their sides - its what they sell their sponsorship around, its what attracts the supporter - especially the casual supporter.  Despite all they say, they need England as much as England needs the players.

The players need England - its what drives their wages at club level. Their agents sell themselves on the back of their International appearances, 'brand' recognition and publicity. 

If players were deprived of representing England by their clubs, they would have to be recompensed by the clubs - and the clubs on their own can't do this - they need the money from the RFU.  Players if they were not recompensed adequately by their clubs or deprived of international would look to  go elsewhere - there are another 2000 clubs the RFU could deal with - and I think they forget this during their (lack of negotations) with the 12 Premiership clubs!
 
Totallly agree.
 
 
It just need someone to wake up in the RFU and realise who has the real power.  The RFU have all the power.  The Premiership is nothing without star players, the star players do not exist if they are not eligible for International Rugby.
 
 
Threaten to pull the funding for the England players and academies etc. give it to the 12 Championship clubs starting from scratch where proper agreements are made and watch how many Premiership owners go running to the RFU saying sorry we were only joking.  The owers won't want to make up huge shortfalls from either paying the players or having to cope with less sponsorship and crowds etc.


Edited by The Blues - 04 Dec 2018 at 20:04
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Robb Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Dec 2018 at 13:59
The principle of the English game has been the same since the leagues were introduced. That any club can go from the bottom to the very top through a clear pathway. I would hate to see that go because it means we might never see another Exeter break up the old boys club. 

The lesser code closed the shop and it only meant that their clubs at the bottom just got worse and worse by being smashed all the time so when they opened it up again, they slumped badly.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Stalwart Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Dec 2018 at 14:30
It absolutely stinks. The RFU need to simply stand up and reject this. The RFU do not seem to appreciate what a great product they have with The Championship - just look at the highlights each week and see the quality of rugby that is produced week in, week out. Scrapping relegation and promotion would simply mean Championship clubs wouldn't bother to invest as there would be no point. 
The fiasco with the cup competition and the Premiership and Championship having separate competitions within their own leagues and playing the same teams over and over again. Had they had a competition involving Prem teams and Champ teams it would have created a lot more interest. 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote CJB1 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Dec 2018 at 22:36
Nigel Melville has said No.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gerg_861 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Dec 2018 at 11:40
Originally posted by CJB1 CJB1 wrote:

Nigel Melville has said No.
 
Indeed, per a telegraph article, he has absolutely ruled out any changes this year. Actually sounded quite robust, and quite annoyed. Ben Ward (Ealing DoR) was also interviewed, and said that the Championship clubs would likely take legal action if the PRL tried to remove relegation.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Bigmal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Dec 2018 at 12:37
I've read the above posts with interest.

Main problem seems to be that international rugby remains the major draw followed by the  European competitions ( although a couple more "tight" finals could see that support drifting away?). Competitive games at levels 1-4 offer good entertainment to suit most pockets and levels 5 down offer "old school" games with a number of local rivalries at minimal cost ( to spectators).

I was at Bristol last week good game against a high profile club ( Leic) with  a crowd of c12000. Even at a somewhat pricey £39 for OAPs such as myself it is clear that gate receipts alone cannot support the size of squad needed to survive let alone compete at this level. TV revenue is minimal by all accounts, RFU contributions significant but tricky for the RFU to sustain and sponsorship welcome although insufficient .This leaves a "sugar daddy" being needed to support the club ( I am NOT knocking the individual involved who willingly bankrolls a range of sports).

There is NO guarantee that these individuals will continue to support the clubs that rely upon them which means that ring fencing could still result in a lame duck who constantly props up the table with the quality players being shared by 11 clubs as opposed to 12. Equally there is no guarantee that the funds promised by one of those most reliable of organisations namely a V capitalist or Hedge Fund will bring parity as PROFIT is the driver.

Leave things as they are is my view - lets enjoy the season as it pans out see where it leads us.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MikeGC Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Dec 2018 at 13:10
The obvious "fudge" would be to have a 2/3 year moratorium on relegation.
During that time very strictly enforce the salary cap. Monies to be spent on developing young, English (or at a push British) talent rather than shipping in journeymen/mercenaries.
After three years (for example) bottom team automatically relegated. Top Championship team promoted and a play off between the second bottom Prem team and the second Championship team.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote SirBurger Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Dec 2018 at 14:04
Pirates getting promotion would be disastrous for Exeter, so it is no surprise that the Chiefs want to ring-fence the league. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Puli. Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Dec 2018 at 15:14
Bristol’s Pat Lam calls for Premiership fans to embrace ringfencing for sake of player development.
If Rugby is the game they play in Heaven ..... Why does it hurt like Hell when you retire?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Bigmal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Dec 2018 at 17:09
Mike GC's "fudge"is an option?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote WINGER14 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Dec 2018 at 19:06
I started playing Rugby in 1959 (School), joined Rotherham in 1964, and retired in 1978. All my Rugby was played as an amateur with no Leagues. When Leagues were formed I loved the idea of my Club battling for promotion year after year, and in our 1st 10yrs we flew up the League's. We left in our wake teams such as Sheffield, Wakefield, Huddersfield, Halifax, Headingley, Roundhay, Morley and Middlesbrough; All of which wouldn't have lowered themselves to give us a game in my playing days, as these were all the equivalent of today's Premiership Clubs.
By the time Professionalism arrived we were firmly established in the second tier, where we stayed for 22yrs, this included two seasons in the Prem. I firmly believed that Leagues/Promotion/Relegation went hand in hand, and always should do.
BUT ----- I have now changed my mind, to a degree. At the end of this season London Irish will be Promoted and whoever is relegated from the Prem will be promoted back to the Prem. At least I hope they will.
BECAUSE ----- London Irish will have a decent chance of staying up, whereas every other Club currently in the Championship, if they were unlucky enough to be Promoted, would be annihilated every week, that may not be everybody's thoughts, but its mine.
To go up to the Prem, these Clubs would have to raise Hundreds of Thousands of Pounds, maybe upto a £Million, on top of what the RFU gives them, to Buy, and Pay for a new squad of players to give them ANY sort of a chance. Most would also have to spend £??? To bring their grounds upto the RFU's criteria.
It could/would be a season from Hell, and could/would result in them being relegated Beaten, Battered and Broke. What chance would they have off retaining players after the fall.

Why not let the Prem Clubs go their own way and see what happens. Players who are good enough would still be taken by the Prem Clubs from the lower leagues. From the Championship down, Clubs would be Semi-Pro / Amateur each playing 30 league games a season.
In my Heart its Promotion / Relegation is Good, but my Head says is it really worth it.

The Titans were Promoted to the Prem and came straight back down, having won just two games, Saracens H and London Irish H. The following season we Won the Second Tier again, but the RFU denied us Promotion. The following season we Won the Second Tier again, were Promoted, but came straight back down having lost all games. This broke us and we were just 2hrs away from going out of existence. Two local businessmen came in and saved the day. They have now been with us for 14yrs.
I never want my Club to go through that again, and advise that following the Dream can actually turn into a nightmare.

If any Club wants to try for Promotion to the Prem, then good look to them, but be afraid, by very afraid.


Edited by WINGER14 - 05 Dec 2018 at 19:10
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Thatbloke Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Dec 2018 at 19:12
Surely there is a compromise to be had!!
So long as there is the "possibility" of promotion everyone would be happy and so long as the chance of moving from bottom of the pyramid to the top remains everyone would be happy?
Why could we not have a play off between bottom of Prem and Top of Championship? (Home & Away Legs) so there remains both a possibility to gain promotion (for the Championship club) and a possibility to maintain their status (for the Prem club)
By the acknowlwdgement of everyone there is a huge Gulf between the two levels so if an existing Prem club can't defeat a Championship club over two legs then surely they've had enough chances and in all honesty don't deserve to retain their status?

Edited by Thatbloke - 05 Dec 2018 at 21:38
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Raider999 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Dec 2018 at 20:17
Originally posted by Thatbloke Thatbloke wrote:

Surely there is a compromise to be had!!
So long as there is the "possibility" of promotion everyone would be happy and so long as the chance of moving from bottom of the pyramid to the top remains everyone would be happy?
Why could we not have a play off between bottom of Prem and Top of Championship? (Home & Away Legs) so there remains both a possibility to gain promotion (for the Championship club) and a possibility to maintain their status (for the Prem club)
By the acknowlwdgement of everyone there is a huge Gulf between the two levels so if an existing Prem club can't defeat a Champuo ship club over two legs then surely they've had enough chances and in all honesty don't deserve to retain their status?


The most sensible, balanced compromise I have read
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